Using text boxes in spreadsheets – Better than typing into a cell

Why use a text box?

Alternative to merging cells and wrapping text when using spreadsheets

Text boxes are used for large blocks of text in a spreadsheet.  One of the limitations of a spreadsheet is the clunkiness of inserting large pieces of text without interrupting the visual flow of the data.  The quickest way to insert text is to just type directly into a cell.  However, this presents several problems.

  • Too big for a cell

    • Inevitably, if you are typing more than a word or two, the content will flow out of the cell.  Visually, it will overlap the cell(s) to the right but the data won’t actually be in those other cells.  Because of this, if you add something into the cell that it is overlapping, the new content will appear over the text that you originally typed.

overlapped text

Merge cells

    • To work around this problem, one method is to merge the cells in which you want to display the text.

merged cells

  • Now the text in yellow resides in only one cell.  This can be helpful since there is no longer a chance that data will overlap it. However, you lose the option of using the cell to the right.  This can break the flow of the spreadsheet if you needed that cell. For longer strings of data, you can merge columns and rows of cells.

Text longer than two cells

merged cells but still too long


  • In the image above, an even longer piece of text has been inserted. This one overlaps more than one cell. We are back to the same problem.

merged cells columns and rows


After merging rows and columns

  • As you can see in the images above, when you merge a cell into different cells that live in different columns and rows, spreadsheets think that you still want the data to extend outside of the cell even if there is room inside of it.

  • Next, you have to apply wrap text

merged cells after wrap text


Wrap text applied to the cell

  •  What a pain!  As you can see, this are way too many steps for such a simple outcome.  Even worse, if you add lines of text to the cell, you will have to merge it again with neighboring cells.  Stop the insanity!!!


Text boxes save the day